[Dev] Reflection on the Relationship of Money and Parabola

Luke Shumaker lukeshu at sbcglobal.net
Tue Jan 6 06:33:38 GMT 2015

OK, now that I have a nice strong beverage I can begin discussing
this.  This kind of conversation isn't the type I come to this list to
have :/

At Sun, 04 Jan 2015 17:44:17 -0300,
hellekin wrote:
> In the last weeks we exchanged a lot about the need and possibility to
> introduce money in the development of Parabola/GNU/Linux-libre.
> Tiberiu offered to sponsor the project from the Fundatio Ceata, which
> presents a number of advantages, especially on of ethical alignment.

Tiberius has been very generous, and Ceata seems to be a good match.
However, I don't think that we've given the SFC or SPI proper
consideration, and I think that it would be a mistake to simply go for
the first foundation that reaches out to us.

The way I'm looking at it, there are several services that joining a
foundation would be able to offer that would be valuable to us.
 - Handling donations
 - Making donations tax-deductible
 - Copyright(left) enforcement (should we ever find a GPL violation)
 - Liability protection (should we ever find ourselves on the wrong
   side of the court room).

I know that the SFC offers all of these.  I don't know much about
Ceata, and I suffer from stupid-American syndrome where I can only
learn one spoken language.

Honestly, I think #3 would be the most valuable.  I'm not sure that
it's terribly likely that there will ever be a GPL violation on any
Parabola code.  But I know that if there were, we would be *totally*
incapable of enforcing the GPL[^0].

With that in mind, them handling money for us seems like a small added
bonus, IMO.

> Aurélien rose a strong shield against the principle of introducing
> money, pretexting the antagonism between friendship and money. His
> position was mostly rationalized against, and maybe because he does not
> master the English language well enough, or maybe because he could not
> verbalize his emotions into reasonable arguments, his minority position
> mostly remained a lonely voice.
> I certainly don't want that the core feature of Parabola, i.e.
> friendship, be dissolved by the introduction of money. A corollary is
> that Aurélien cannot feel excluded for taking a different position that
> the rest of Parabola stakeholders.

I'm pretty sure Aurélien feels worn out by this discussion, and I
don't blame him.

My stance: as much as I would *love* to receive a cheque for my work
on Parabola, I think that money distributed among developers is a
terrible idea.

I'm OK with receiving donations that cover expenses.  I think I'd even
be OK with using donations to employ one of us full-time (though I'm
skeptical that we would raise even close to enough money to do that).
But rationing out the money is a terrible idea.

There was a study that I can't find (because the keywords are utterly
unhelpful) that showed that introducing money into a community like
this poisons it, even if it seems like a strict improvement.  Once
someone is receiving a few dollars for something, at some subconscious
level it stops being a donation/volunteering.  I remember the example
of asking your friends to help you move; buy them pizza and drinks
afterward and everyone's happy; offer them $15 afterward, and
everyone's bitter, even though the value of what you have them is
roughly the same[^1].  Whatever you give them [whatever donations we
receive], are way under the value of the labor put in.  Anything
money less than that is insulting (even if slightly illogical).

And speaking from my own perspective, as nice as it would be to
receive a cheque; unless it's somehow enough that I can consider
myself employed by Parabola and avoid getting another job, then it's
not a very good use of the money.  It wouldn't affect my contributions
in any way, it wouldn't substantially affect my happiness.

OTOH, if the funds sent me a BBB, that would likely be a pretty good
use of the money, as it is a piece of hardware that would directly
allow me to contribute in new ways. (on the other (third? :P) hand, if
you did send be a BBB, I'd probably end up just feeling really guilty
that I was wasting it, and not putting more time into the ARM port.
Both because of other obligations sucking my time away, and because
I'm a lazy/selfish bastard who works on things that he finds
interesting, instead of what you guys tell him is important.  How long
has automatic source-ball creation been a feature request in the bug

I know when I discussed this with Aurélien on IRC (sorry, I don't have
chat logs), and mentioned receiving donations for expenses, Aurélien
still objected.  He said that whatever our needs are, we should ask
for those directly from the community, instead of asking for money.
Several other users have piped up with their support for that idea;
a project can exist entirely through donated *stuff*, as we do.  I can
definitely get behind that.

OTOH, having a pot of spare money would allow us to do experiments and
things that we might not otherwise do because of the overhead of
coordinating with someone else over the resources.  In my discussion
with Aurélien, I used the example of a separate build server for
automated builds.  He said ~"great, ask for someone to donate a
server."  I didn't have a good response at the time, but I think I do
now: That kind of misses my point; if we can try new things that have
expenses without as much overhead, then it allows us to try more cool
new things.

Let me put it this way: There are a lot of pros and cons to whatever
decision we make.  My support of any decision in this matter is
contingent upon Aurélien's support.  If Aurélien does not fully
support whatever is decided, then neither do I.  I don't necessarily
agree with him; I may try to sway his opinion; but without his full
support, you don't have mine.

> As I said earlier, money is not a problem but its allocation is. What
> purpose does it serve, and how fair can it be? Allocation of
> money-as-a-mean is not the same as allocation of money-as-an-end. If the
> end is to earn money, then it's the latter case. I think Parabola should
> focus on the former case, namely that money should be allocated to
> facilitate the development of the project. With the original proposal by
> Icarious and Emulatorman, the goal was to provide continuity to the
> project. In the spirit of solidarity, allocating money to developers in
> need is both cheap and a mean to reinforce the community, not a mean to
> dislocate it.

OK, so what is the end that the money is a mean to?  What needs
qualify a developer to receive funds?  Who gets to judge their cases?

And with money, we have to have some sort of formal administration.
Someone would have to be a "representative" with Ceata or the SFC or
whatever and decide where money goes.  Do we democratize all of those
communications like we do everything else?  Do we elect a
representative (republicanize) for efficiency?  As much as a I love
our wholly democratic structure, it has severe inefficiencies.  For a
year and a half (since July 2013) I've been trying to ratify a couple
of wording changes to our social contract.  I mean, whatever.  But
that's not really going to fly once a foundation with money is

I don't recall if it was Tiberiu wrote, or something from the SFC (I
can't find it now (strong beverage, remember :P), but I distinctly
remember the mention that with the bureaucratic duties of being such a
representative, one might have less time for technical contributions.
Which is a bummer, so far be it from me to pressure someone into that.
But, if he's interested, and we go forward with such a plan: I
nominate fauno.  Other hackers come and go, he's been constant.

[^0]: If we were to try to enforce the GPL, I'm pretty sure that the
      best bet would be me personally approaching the SFC or SFLC and
      seeing if they'd help me enforce my copyright pro-bono, because
      "Luke Shumaker" is in the header of enough of our source files
      that I personally could claim copyright on some of whatever was
      violated.  That seems like a terrible plan.
[^1]: It's not a perfect comparison because with the pizza and drinks,
      you are also spending time with them, giving them an experience,
      etc.  But the example gets the point across.

Happy hacking,
~ Luke Shumaker

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